Ever wished you could monitor your pet? That your dog could let you know how well he slept last night? Or if he wants more or less exercise? Now he can, discovers Danielle Chenery.
Reading your dog’s non-verbal cues is an art every dog owner can now master with a handy new device from the US. The Whistle is a device that claims to take the guesswork out of how your dog is really feeling. Like a Fitbit for dogs, it can also help you keep on top of your dog’s health and wellbeing.
Thanks to this smart activity monitor, owners can be provided with data from your dog, which, ultimately, may help determine if your beloved pooch has any health issues simmering under the surface.
How does it work?
Ben Jacobs from the US is the man behind the Whistle activity monitor, which cleverly tracks dogs’ sleeping patterns and activity levels. It works by transmitting all data from the device into an online database that will compare a dog’s level of activity to what is considered normal for that dog’s breed, age weight, and the dog’s individual “normal” stats.
Jacobs describes the device as a combination of hardware and software that provides actionable insights for pet parents. “On the hardware side, a small, wireless, waterproof device attaches to any collar and passively tracks a dog’s motion throughout the day. The measurements are very refined and can note the smallest change, for example, moving during sleep or a rowdy session in the dog park.
“After wirelessly transmitting that data via Wi-Fi or Bluetooth, our software and data science automatically classifies activities as rest, play, walk, enabling owners to check in on their dog via mobile apps wherever they are. Pet parents can share this information with other members of the family, friends or their veterinarian,” he explains.
Whistle’s creation was inspired after Jacobs lost his German Shepherd, Bear. “Our family always had dogs, particularly German Shepherds. Unfortunately, one of those pets, Bear, passed away fairly suddenly from an intestinal issue when he was only five years old – an event that stuck with me as an owner, trying to figure out how we can provide better care of these loved pets both day-to-day and when it comes to their long-term health,” he explains. “I’ve since had dogs that are, thankfully, healthy, like my current Dachshund mix, Duke, as well as those with ailments such as arthritis. Whistle’s goal is to provide insights and data into their care.”
Jacobs has grand plans about Whistle’s role in pet health. “Whistle works closely with the veterinary community, from independent vet advisors to ongoing research at top academic institutions. Over time, Whistle’s first-of-its-kind comparative database will provide insights to researchers as well as owners about the activity of dogs in domestic environments, opening up a window for preventative care,” he explains.
“We already see owners using Whistle to monitor their pets’ recovery from surgeries, as well as creating daily healthy habits that contribute to the wellbeing of both pet and owner,” he concludes.
US-based Carol Ritchie has been using Whistle for Molly, her two-and-a-half-year-old Coton de Tulear, and says the product is very easy to set up and use.
“The unit and the charger came in the mail. I simply opened the package, charged the Whistle through my USB port on my computer, attached the securing strap to my dog’s collar and downloaded the Whistle app to my iPhone,” she says. “When the Whistle was fully charged (the lights around the device turn white to let you know it’s fully charged), I synced the unit to my phone, removed it from the charging station and twisted it in the securing strap attached to her collar. The unit makes an audible clicking sound to let you know it’s firmly attached to the collar.
“In the settings section of the app, you add in your dog’s name (Molly), age (2.5 years), weight (12 lbs), gender (female) and breed (Coton de Tulear), and you can upload a photo of your dog that you will see when you go to the Whistle app.
“Once the Whistle is attached to her collar, you’re all set. When the unit needs to be charged, the app on my phone sends me a message and the light on the unit will light up red. There is no visible light on the unit when it has sufficient battery life.
“Molly is small so the unit on her collar is a little more noticeable than it would be on a larger dog, but she has adjusted to wearing it without any issues so far. We’ve had it since the end of July,” Ritchie explains.
So far, Ritchie has found the data very informative. “The unit allows you to set activity goals for the dog and it tracks the dog’s activity throughout the day and checks her actual activity against the goals you set. There are automatic messages sent out to alert you if your dog’s activity drops down over a period as well as messages of encouragement for achieving the goals such as ‘Molly is on a roll’.”
Interestingly, Richie says, when comparing Molly’s exercise statistics to her own (she uses mapmyrun.com), Molly registers as more active, despite the trip taking the same amount of time.
“She doesn’t seem to travel in the same straight line that I do while we’re walking. All her ‘dart to the left, dart to right’ trips to the end of her leash get her a great deal more exercise than I get on the same walk, but I can tell the device is accurately measuring the distance we travelled,” she adds.
When using Whistle, your dog’s activity information is relayed to your phone both as a circle graph showing the number of minutes it’s active and as a timeline showing when in the day activity occurs. “Somehow, the device can tell the difference between a formal walk and just being active, Richie says. “With the latest update to the device, you can now upload photos and comments, which can be attached to those activity message tags. This is great for notating what type of activity is happening and it creates a mini photo album for the user.
“The unit also has a ‘Trends’ feature that displays the activity and rest information in a bar graph over the current week, and over the last six months. There is also a feature that allows you to compare your dog to similar dogs,” adds Ritchie.
Ritchie says Whistle has actually inspired her to get walking more as it reminds her when Molly’s activity is low.
Where to buy
For now, Whistle is available for pre-order at $129.95 for shipments to the US and Canada, but it may be coming our way soon!You need to look after your pooch's health - check out our all-new DOGSLife Directory